>From: "CYMM" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Re: Werner's syndrome may have nothing to do with normal aging
>Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 19:33:35 -0400
>ROBERT BRADBURY SAID: "...There is no clear way of knowing
>if lifespan decreasing genes are defective variants of lifespan
>CYMM SAYS: In fact they may not be defects at all... but simply genes that
>are selected for - or not selected against - under a harsh regime... like
>the archtypal sickle cell gene.
>The apo polymorphisms might be placed here...as might be the various genes
>for type II diabetes; that gene variant... damn I forgot ...for platelet
>aggregability; and of course the Mt5178 complex.
You know, there is a wealth of literature - the Bible, the tale of
Gilgamesh, the Shah Nama, etc., which describes individuals living for
centuries, followed by a slowly declining lifespan leveling out where we are
now. Of course, it is possible and even likely that this is just mythology.
But not likely enough to totally discount...
Considering that native intelligence X accumulated knowledge X informational
technology expertise provide for an exponential advantage to long-lived
individuals, it seems possible that a period in human history could actually
have produced some very long lived genotypes.
In such really primitive societies as we have good information on, such as
the paradigm New Hebrides tribes, it is typical for those males that do
survive to their 50's or 60's to dominate the local gene pool, with access
to several generations of multiple wives over their lifespan, while the
non-Alpha males rarely reproduce at all. This again would give a tremendous
genetic advantage to an exceptionally long life.
The New Hebrides tribes have their genetic roots in an apparent shipwreck
about 2000 years ago. Today, many of them are clearly differentiated by
physiologically distinct traits. There is a tribe of near pigmies, for
example, as well as a tribe of near giants - in only 2000 years! This
should not be so surprising, however, considering the variations in dog
species over a similar period.
What would have happened to genes for a lifespan of hundreds of years,
assuming that the tales have a root in truth? I suspect that a culture
dominated by such people would have quickly, due to the inherent
informational advantages, dominated the human scene, both genetically and
otherwise. Like many of the early human cities, however, they would
ultimately have been devastated by encountering a plague to which, because
of their common genetic heritage, they would have been particularly
This factor is what kept the New Hebrides tribes from ever uniting or any
one tribe from dominating, or, for that matter, from ever reaching a
Malthusian population problem. According to McNeal (sp?) in his Plagues and
Peoples, there is a natural limit - I believe he put it at about 500 - to
the sustainable size of primitive human contiguous populations, because of
the disease factor. Those tribes that did develop some technological or
genetic advantage that enabled them to grow beyond that limit would
inevitably succumb shortly thereafter to a plague of some kind.
It was apparently only the lifting of the last ice age and the migration
northward into relatively sterile and safe environments - i.e., N. Europe -
that allowed for the development of permanent sustainable cities that did
not get periodically devastated. This also roughly coincides with the
emergence of the epics citing the long-lived heros. And the immunity from
plagues of the Northern cities was neither absolute nor permanent, although
it did give humanity a major leg up in the development of sustainable
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